Where before, essay-writing contests were even held among the young to bring out their thoughts about Tarlac’s hero, today there isn’t much of the fervor, not even the yellow ribbons displayed in the province whenever Aug. 21 comes.
The ancestral house of the Aquino family in Concepcion town is quiet. The only yellow color marking the place comes from yellow bells planted around the compound.
But still, at least in varying degrees, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. is still remembered by his province mates, not only as the former Concepcion mayor, Tarlac governor or senator, but also as the country’s modern day hero.
The country commemorated the 29th death anniversary of Aquino, father of President Aquino and husband of the late President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, on Tuesday. Tarlac officials held wreath-laying activities and programs to honor him.
But remembering Aquino was also personal.
For lawyer Joey Baluyut, there is more to remember the man than the usual narration of struggles he went through.
“I saw the funeral march of Ninoy when I was in grade school. As the years went by and we became more mature to better understand what he had lived and died for, Ninoy’s influence on us grew. That was when I decided to become a lawyer and then a politician, and make a difference in my community,” he said.
Baluyut, 39, is a councilor of Concepcion. He came from a local youth association called Makata (Malayang Kabataan ng Tarlac), which renders community service.
He lamented that the younger generation knows very little of Aquino. The best way to let them know about him is to “live his ideals, set an example and keep up with his fight for freedom and democracy through good governance,” he said.
“This is equal to remembering his name,” he said.
‘Tatay ni Kris’
In Tarlac City, a group of third year high school students at Tarlac State University gave varied responses when asked about Aquino.
The quick ones were “yellow,” “the song ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon,’” and the more show biz, “Tatay ni Kris.”
Kathy Lim, though, had a more profound answer: “Lumakas ang paninindigan ng tao dahil sa kanya (The people’s conviction strengthened because of his example).”
The students said they had read the story of Aquino’s life in their textbook on “Sibika at Kultura,” but only one of them had visited the Aquino Museum in Tarlac to learn more about him.
At the provincial capitol where commemorative rites were held on Tuesday, Gov. Victor Yap reminded his fellow Tarlaqueños about the province’s role in history and its obligation in the present.
Tarlac has always been in the forefront of fighting for freedom, he said. Not only is this emblazoned in the Philippine flag as one of the first eight provinces that fought against Spain but also because Tarlac is home to the country’s hero, Aquino.
“Tarlaqueños should carry not only the pride but also the responsibility of sustaining the gains of freedom and democracy in the country,” he said.
Even as Aquino did not become president of the Philippines, Yap said what he had was a “leadership for greater history, not only for the Aquino family but for the province as well.”
Benito Gonzales Jr., Aquino’s cousin and the family representative during the ceremony, said Filipinos should always remember Aquino’s ideals, among them is that “public service is a contract with the people and a commitment to God.”
“Let the death of Ninoy bear fruit in each of us and that we become better persons, better Filipinos and a better nation. His death paved the way in restoring democracy in our country and, hopefully, decency in public service,” Gonzales said.